The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has revealed that the demand for primary healthcare services in Nigeria remains below the desired level due to various factors such as social, cultural and geographical barriers.
The agency cited poor quality of care and low levels of trust in the health system arising from misinformation and disinformation as some of the reasons for the sub-optimal demand.
The executive director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib made this known during the ‘Close-out and dissemination of the Strengthening Demand for PHC Services in Nigeria Project Findings’ session held in Abuja. The one-day event was organised by NPHCDA with support from the Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics.
Shuaib pointed out that the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 further exacerbated the situation by increasing social restrictions and public distrust in the health systems. This development negatively impacted health-seeking behaviours, especially at the primary healthcare and community levels in the country.
To address the issue, NPHCDA collaborated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore behavioural science approaches and human-centred designs for evidence-based interventions that would lead to long-term changes in health-seeking behaviours. The implementation of the first stage of the project began in 2021 with funding for two years to cover start-up support in Niger and Gombe states.
Director of community health service at NPHCDA, Dr. Adamu Usman explained that the Close-out and dissemination meeting was to share results and outcomes from the “Strengthening Demand for PHC Services” project and derive lessons learned and best practices for future projects. The project aimed to raise awareness about the importance of accessing primary healthcare services, educate communities on the benefits of preventive healthcare, and provide training and capacity-building programmes for healthcare providers and traditional leaders to improve the quality of services they offer.
According to Usman, the success of the project in increasing the number of people accessing primary healthcare services in Niger and Gombe states was due to the support and collaboration of partners, particularly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The outcomes from the project will provide more justifications for the institutionalisation of behavioural science in the PHC demand generation strategies from conceptualisation to implementation in the future.
In conclusion, the sub-optimal demand for primary healthcare services in Nigeria is a complex issue that requires multifaceted solutions. The collaboration between NPHCDA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore behavioral science approaches is a step in the right direction. The successful implementation of the project in Niger and Gombe states underscores the need for more interventions that will increase the demand for primary healthcare services and improve health-seeking behaviors in Nigeria.